The Demise of Intelligent Design

At last?

Back in 2007, I predicted that the idea of “Intelligent Design” would soon fade into obscurity. I wrote:

My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent* was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.

*August, 2005

I was wrong. Whilst the interest in “Intelligent Design” (ID) as a fruitful line of scientific enquiry has declined from the heady days of 2005 (or perhaps was never really there) there remain diehard enthusiasts who maintain the claim that ID has merit and is simply being held back by the dark forces of scientism. William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert. In 2017 (with Dembski as a co-author) they published Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, which was heralded as a new development in the ID blogosphere. However, the claim that this represents progress has been met with scepticism.

But the issue of whether ID was ever really scientific has remained as the major complaint of those who dismiss it. Even ID proponents have admitted this to be a problem. Paul Nelson, a prominent (among ID proponents) advocate of ID famously declared in 2004:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ – but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

Whilst some ID proponents – Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe are perhaps most prominent among them – have tried to develop ID as science, the general scientific community and the wider world have remained unimpressed.

Then a new young vigorous player appears on the field. Step forward, Eric Holloway! Dr Holloway has produced a number of articles published at Mind Matters – a blog sponsored by the Discovery Institute (the paymasters of ID) on artificial and “natural” intelligence. He has also been quite active here and elsewhere defending ID and I have had to admire his persistence in arguing his case for ID, especially as the whole concept is, in my view, indefensible.

But! Do I see cracks appearing? I happened to glance at the blog site formerly run by William Dembski, Uncommon Descent, and noticed an exchange of comments on a thread entitled Once More from the Top on “Mechanism” The post author is Barry Arrington, current owner of UD and a lawyer by trade, usually too busy to produce a thoughtful or incisive piece (and this is no different). However, the comments get interesting when Dr Holloway joins in at comment 48. He writes:

If we can never be sure we account for all chance hypotheses, then how can we be sure we do not err when making the design inference? And even if absolute certainty is not our goal, but only probability, how can we be confident in the probability we derive?

Eric continues with a few more remarks that seem to raise concern among the remaining regulars. ( ” Geeze you are one confused little pup EricMH.” “Has a troll taken over Eric’s account?) and later comments:

But since then, ID has lost its way and become enamored of creationism vs evolution, apologetics and the culture wars, and lost the actual scientific aspect it originally had. So, ID has failed to follow through, and is riding on the cultural momentum of the original claims without making progress.

Dr Holloway continues to deliver home truths:

I would most like to be wrong, and believe that I am, but the ID movement, with one or two notable exceptions, has not generated much positive science. It seems to have turned into an anti-Darwin and culture war/apologetics movement. If that’s what the Discovery Institute wants to be, that is fine, but they should not promote themselves as providing a new scientific paradigm.

I invite those still following the fortunes of ID to read on, though I recommend scrolling past comments by ET and BA77. Has Dr Holloway had a road-to-Damascus moment? Is the jig finally up for ID? I report – you decide!

ETA link

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824 thoughts on “The Demise of Intelligent Design

  1. Alan Fox,

    Seems to me you can only ever know half the story, when a program halts. But I wonder what relevance this logical problem has to evolution, biology or reality.

    The evidence that DNA, Amino Acid, or Exon sequences are the product of a haunting oracle or partial haunting oracle. They are not the product of stochastic processes which are not partial haunting oracles.

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  2. colewd: The evidence that DNA, Amino Acid, or Exon sequences are the product of a haunting oracle or partial haunting oracle.

    That’s an assertion that needs explaining. I have an alternative explanation that involves selection of variation by the niche.

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  3. Alan Fox,

    That’s an assertion that needs explaining. I have an alternative explanation that involves selection of variation by the niche.

    This assertion fails when you try to model it. To get a new animal you need to organize more than a billion nucleotides and your only hope is almost infinite solutions in the haystack. This requires convergence not the diversity life which is contradicted by observation. Also the empirical data generated by gpuccio, Durston and Hunt is contradicting this idea.

    Mind surfaces as a more parsimonious idea. Dawkins claims God is too big a concept but we need a big conceptual solution to explain this universe which contains observers constructed with functional information.

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  4. colewd: To get a new animal you need to organize more than a billion nucleotides and your only hope is almost infinite solutions in the haystack

    Nope. You have both time and parallel processes. It doesn’t have to happen all at once in one spot. And the Earth is nearly five billion years old, not six thousand.

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  5. colewd: Mind surfaces as a more parsimonious idea.

    Ah, that reminds me… No flesh on the bones of your “mind” yet. What, precisely, is the mechanism, the interface, between your “mind” imagining and processes happening?

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  6. colewd: Dawkins claims God is too big a concept…

    I think Dawkins expounded a similar idea to one I’m convinced of (that a sentient entity cannot comprehend, design or create another entity more complex than itself) in that your “Intelligent Designer” or “mind” would need to be more complex than his creation which just regresses to absurdity.

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  7. colewd: Mind surfaces as a more parsimonious idea.

    Only because you have already opted out of explaining the origin of that “mind”. And as noted at tedious length you conflate human minds with minds that can create realities.

    colewd: Also the empirical data generated by gpuccio, Durston and Hunt is contradicting this idea.

    Is that right? Do blog posts at UD count as peer reviewed science now then? I guess for ID they probably do at this point, there’s little else to go on.

    As if gpuccio will ever have the balls to put his name to something in that realm.

    colewd: Also the empirical data generated by gpuccio, Durston and Hunt is contradicting this idea.

    I just had to quote it again. You realize how laughable this is, right? What, will you reference specific posts at UD now to back up this claim?

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  8. colewd: This assertion fails when you try to model it. To get a new animal you need to organize more than a billion nucleotides and your only hope is almost infinite solutions in the haystack. This requires convergence not the diversity life which is contradicted by observation. Also the empirical data generated by gpuccio, Durston and Hunt is contradicting this idea.

    It’s pretty much a standing joke how you constantly ignore the effects of selection feedback in evolutionary processes Bill. In fact you’re rapidly becoming one of the biggest jokes in E/C debate circles. You’re rapidly approaching Joe Gallien / Robert Byers territory. Not something to be proud of.

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  9. OMagain,

    I just had to quote it again. You realize how laughable this is, right? What, will you reference specific posts at UD now to back up this claim?

    Are you claiming that data from gpuccio is not real? It comes directly from databases we can check and I have.

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  10. OMagain,

    Only because you have already opted out of explaining the origin of that “mind”. And as noted at tedious length you conflate human minds with minds that can create realities.

    Can you explain how matter originated? From what source did an electron a photon and a proton come? Science does not do well with origin questions. Your counter argument argument is of no value until it gets framed it a way that is how science
    works.

    Mind is a tested mechanism for generating what we are observing in the cell. ID is a scientific claim that helps explain along with other evolutionary mechanisms like common descent and speciation the origin and evolution of living organisms.

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  11. colewd: Mind is a tested mechanism for generating what we are observing in the cell.

    Fantastic.

    Please point me to the actual evidence of an actual mind generating an actual cell.

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  12. colewd: Mind is a tested mechanism for generating what we are observing in the cell.

    Please provide the scientific documentation for this test. You seem to be pulling your “facts” from your ass yet again.

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  13. colewd,

    “ID is a scientific claim that helps…”

    Oh, please. We’re not stupid. Neither atheists nor theists believe you or the IDM, colewd. That bridge was burned in the radical Seattle push toward IDism. The demarcation game, set & match was lost by IDism, even if IDists themselves won’t yet admit it. And I say this as someone with unique experience, having been right on the fault line of this ‘scientificity’ problem within IDism, having attended the DI’s summer program in 2008. So, no, please don’t play people for fools, when you are acting as ideologue for IDism.

    Theists should faithfully and responsibly reject IDism as a fetish-like distortion of science, philosophy, theology/worldview perpetrated by a self-declared ‘revolutionists’ group of badly outmatched USAmerican evangelical Protestants (with philosophically simplistic Behe as their willing Catholic ideological martyr) that contradicts both Scripture & Tradition.

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  14. Neil Rickert,

    Hasn’t is been shown countless times that by practicing certain activities we can increase our brain cells? How is that not the mind producing the physical?

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  15. phoodoo:
    Neil Rickert,

    Hasn’t is been shown countless times that by practicing certain activities we can increase our brain cells?How is that not the mindproducing the physical?

    In fact, we can make countless alterations to many parts of our bodies by way of diet and exercise (or lack of exercise). We can even alter the number of brain cells in other people by recommending (and them following) some regimen. So the point you’re trying to make is unclear. The mind is not doing any of this directly. It’s a byproduct of the diet and exercise. If your mind makes the decision to shoot yourself in the foot, it’s the bullet and not the mind that actually does the deed.

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  16. Neil Rickert,

    Please point me to the actual evidence of an actual mind generating an actual cell.

    Show me evidence of matter condensing and creating a black hole. You cannot but we can predict it from the model of general relativity. In our exchange we are validating the model that minds can make functional sequences.

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  17. colewd: Show me evidence of matter condensing and creating a black hole.

    I can show you a cowardly ID-Creationist moron making any excuse to dodge the fact a “mind” alone can’t physically manipulate matter.

    Will that do?

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  18. DNA_Jock: I did do a little more of YOUR homework for you — sufficient to destroy the (meagre) support for YOUR claim that Ewert found 100 genes that are shared by Pan troglodytes and Rattus norvegicus but not found in humans or mice

    To the surprise of absolutely no one Bill is back at PS repeating this same “100 genes” lie. Another classic Liar For Jesus it seems.

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  19. colewd: Show me evidence of matter condensing and creating a black hole.

    You have changed the subject. Seems like a Gish gallop.

    Note that I have not ruled out the possibility that cosmology could be mistaken about black holes. I’ll await further evidence.

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  20. keiths:
    Bruce,

    That seems like a cheat to me.“Running” and “halted” are mutually exclusive and exhaustive.“Halted” is only reached if the program halts.If the program doesn’t halt, then “running” is the only remaining possibility, and that leads to the apparent contradiction I described above.

    They do consider these ideas in the paper. Their point is that we can look at the output after two time units, even though the machine state is only specified for [0, 2). I don’t think there is a logical contradiction, but there are related issues, eg: if TMs are abstract math objects, what is nature of time for them? How can we speak of time for such an object? I’ll let you read the paper for their discussion.

    These two authors have been working and publishing in this field some time. I’ll go with their judgement and that of their reviewers that ATMs can compute a value of the halting function without there being any logical contradiction in the ATM definition, under the caveats they describe.

    I am going to stop reading this thread now.

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  21. colewd: ID is a scientific claim that helps explain along with other evolutionary mechanisms like common descent and speciation the origin and evolution of living organisms.

    And what is that explanation?

    Is there more to it then “mind” or is that literally it?

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  22. Flint: The mind is not doing any of this directly.

    How is it not? If the mind decides to think of a series of numbers and try to remember them, that thought of thinking of those numbers and memorizing those numbers is changing the physical structure of the brain.

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  23. phoodoo: that thought of thinking of those numbers and memorizing those numbers is changing the physical structure of the brain.

    You seem to be forgetting what is doing the thinking in the first place.

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  24. phoodoo: If the mind decides to think of a series of numbers and try to remember them, that thought of thinking of those numbers and memorizing those numbers is changing the physical structure of the brain.

    Also, why?

    Does your purported “mind-soul” not have a memory of it’s own?

    Perhaps in fact these “souls” are inter dimensional parasites who, without any ability to form their own memories, glom onto us and use us like USB storage devices…

    Seems like a candidate explanation to me. Prove me wrong!

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  25. phoodoo: How is it not?If the mind decides to think of a series of numbers and try to remember them, that thought of thinking of those numbers and memorizing those numbers is changing the physical structure of the brain.

    The changes to the brain result from the operation of the brain. But your theology seems to remove brains from the model altogether, leaving, well, something you don’t really define. In the real world, the “mind” is an epiphenomenon, arising as a byproduct of brain operation. No brain, no mind. Have you ever undergone a general anesthetic? It’s not at all like sleeping, during which your brain attempts to make sense of disorganized neuron firing. Under general anesthetic, you are simply turned off – no dreams, no sense of the passage of time. No mind, because the brain is not operating.

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  26. Neil Rickert,

    I am showing how even the most robust theories are limited. The mechanism is tested in a broad enough way to give confidence that it is a general solution. Evolution requires an innovative deterministic mechanism in order to model it. You have said science is about building models

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  27. colewd: I am showing how even the most robust theories are limited.

    What is that even supposed to mean?

    The mechanism is tested in a broad enough way to give confidence that it is a general solution.

    Perhaps you are confused about the nature of scientific theory.

    Evolution requires an innovative deterministic mechanism in order to model it. You have said science is about building models

    I don’t understand that at all.

    Yes, evolution is very different from Newton’s laws. But so what? Biology is very different from physics.

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  28. Flint: The changes to the brain result from the operation of the brain.

    So you don’t believe in choice then?

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  29. colewd: I am showing how even the most robust theories are limited.

    All you’re showing is how your scientific knowledge and understanding is incredibly limited.

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  30. I think Adapa is the heart and soul of the Skeptical movement.

    Alan is merely a cheerleader.

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  31. Neil Rickert: Biology is very different from physics.

    Yes, this is what non-materialists have been trying to tell the materialists for a long time. But they just refuse to believe it.

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  32. Flint: It’s not at all like sleeping, during which your brain attempts to make sense of disorganized neuron firing. Under general anesthetic, you are simply turned off – no dreams, no sense of the passage of time. No mind, because the brain is not operating.

    I’m not so sure about that. I had surgery under ether, and remember the dreams 60 years later. Nowadays the give you something to block memory formation. Same implication,though.

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  33. phoodoo: Yes, this is what non-materialists have been trying to tell the materialists for a long time. But they just refuse to believe it.

    Funny how instead of being a X you are in fact not-Y.

    Don’t you have a name for what you are other then not-materialist? It seems you don’t stand for anything, you are just against everything.

    And in any case, you don’t need to tell anyone anything. You need to show it. And then, perhaps, you’ll convince some people.

    As it is you just come across as a know-nothing who knows what’s wrong but not what is right.

    Remind me again how decisions are made in phoodoo world?

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  34. Neil Rickert,

    What is that even supposed to mean?

    It means that the objections to ID are without substance. It is the materialists spinning the Irish yarn and not following the rules of basic science. ID is a theory in exactly the same way general relativity is a theory. It is a testable mechanistic explanation of the data we are observing.

    It is the first real theory for explaining the origin and diversity of life.

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  35. colewd: It means that the objections to ID are without substance.

    ID is without substance.

    It is the materialists spinning the Irish yarn and not following the rules of basic science.

    You must be talking about Bill Cole’s rules of science, rather than about how science is actually done.

    By the way, I am not a materialist.

    ID is a theory in exactly the same way general relativity is a theory.

    No, ID is only an hypothesis. If it ever gets to being an actual theory, people will start to take it seriously.

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  36. colewd: It is the first real theory for explaining the origin and diversity of life.

    And what is that explanation?

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  37. Neil Rickert,

    No, ID is only an hypothesis. If it ever gets to being an actual theory, people will start to take it seriously.

    Can you explain this? What separates a theory from a hypothesis?

    I see it as very comparable to general relativity. Do you consider general relativity a hypothesis?

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  38. OMagain,

    And what is that explanation?

    That a mind is directly behind the complex adaptions we observe in living organisms.

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  39. colewd: That a mind is directly behind the complex adaptions we observe in living organisms.

    And that’s it? Where do you go from here? What predictions can you make?

    What’s next?

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  40. colewd: I see it as very comparable to general relativity. Do you consider general relativity a hypothesis?

    hypothesis: a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

    What further investigation does the idea that “mind did biology” allow?

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  41. colewd: That a mind is directly behind the complex adaptions we observe in living organisms.

    A human mind? Or aliens?

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